Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Christmas is long past, the wise men have come and gone – even the inauguration is over (and peacefully, thanks be to God). Even those of us who might be holding out and keeping our Christmas lights up to ward off the winter chill have to admit that our sacred and secular January festivals are now over. Ordinary time has come.
In the Church year, the weeks of Ordinary time are those great in-between times – the times after Christmas and before Lent, or after Easter and before Advent. They are the times when we are neither preparing for the great, anchoring feasts of the year nor celebrating them. We are just here, vested in green, marking the Sundays.
It’s actually this marking that gives this time its name. “Ordinary” in the church calendar doesn’t mean normal or plain (or boring) – it means relating to ordinals, to the numbers that mark the time after. The Second Sunday after, the Third Sunday after, the Fourth, the Fifth. These weeks help our liturgical calendar to adapt to the accordion squeeze that happens every year as the date of Easter hops around. How many Sundays will there be after the Epiphany? Well, that depends on Easter, and Easter never stands still. Ordinary time was built to accommodate this swing of the season, to create stability when each year some of the foundation has to move.
Of course, Ordinary time has a much deeper purpose than a simple calendar adjustment. The Godly Play curriculum calls these seasons the “green, growing time” of the church year. Ordinary time is when we do our primary work as followers of Christ, when we grow our discipleship, when we help the roots of our faith to grow deeper and deeper into the good soil of Grace. If Church were only Advent & Christmas, Lent & Easter, preparing and celebrating, where would the time be for us to simply be? Where would we find time to practice loving our neighbor, on a plain old, ordinary day, in our regular, daily life? Ordinary time is when we learn to let the light of Christ shine in our lives, not because it’s reflected from the glow of Christmas candles, but because it is pouring forth from hearts that that are loved and loving.
This year, the thought of the ordinary might feel like an enormous relief. Or it might feel like a bit of a letdown. Either way, it is no less holy and contains no less of God’s infinite mercy and Grace. Welcome to Ordinary time, my friends. May it be for you a green, growing time. May it be a time of extraordinary blessing.